18th Feb 2021
Ulster Bank, owned by NatWest, is meeting today to discuss its future in the Republic of Ireland. While no official announcement has been made yet, it’s expected that the company will withdraw from the Republic following months of speculation that the bank will end 160-year history here, where it currently employs 3,000 staff.
It’s understood that NatWest does intend to maintain Ulster Bank’s presence in Northern Ireland, but its recurring IT issues, its inability to turn a profit and the hold AIB or Bank of Ireland have on the market in the Republic have only been compounded by the pandemic. According to the Irish Times, Ulster Bank holds about 15% of the mortgage markets and 20% of the small-to-medium business loans.
Mortgages, loans and current accounts
The main thing to note is that Ulster Bank remains Ireland’s third-largest bank with a number of holdings. Any decision to wind down the operation will likely take years, so there is no need to panic from a consumer point of view.
If you have a loan or mortgage with Ulster Bank, it will likely be sold either to another Irish bank or to an international investment fund. However, your contract and terms will remain the same and you will have all the same consumer protections you hold now and the new owners will be held to the Central Bank’s rules.
If you have a current account with Ulster Bank, you will be given notice about the bank’s closure and lodgements will be repaid, likely in a similar to how Danske Bank, Nationwide and Rabodirect repaid deposits when they pulled out of Ireland.
However, the next concern is the loss of competition with only two main banks left in the country, alongside KBC. Less competition means higher prices, so unless online banks like Revolut and N26 can step up their offering in Ireland, the recent hike in banking fees might only be the beginning.